We experience breakdowns in our communications with clients for lots of reasons, but here are three of the big ones: (1) we don't give them enough of the right information, (2) we don't tell them what they can expect from us, and (3) we don't explain what we expect from them as clients.
Take for example a contract or a motion you’ve prepared. If you send that document to your client with a simple cover email that says “Please review and let me know if you approve or have any questions”, then guess what? You’re either going to get a lot of questions, or worse have a client who doesn't understand what you sent them and stays silent.
If you want to improve your client service and set expectations, create and send a 1-2 page “Guide” or “FAQ” sheet along with key documents they need to review, requests for information, or in advance of important events.
For example, instead of just asking your client to "collect these documents" in response to discovery, why not give them a sheet that tells them specifically (1) what to look for, (2) where to look, and (3) how you would like them to send what they find to you.
Here's another example: if you represent clients who have never been to court before, why not send them a guide (or better yet, a short video) that explains (1) when and where to meet you the day of the hearing, (2) what to expect at the hearing, (3) what to wear to court, and (3) a description of all the other people who will be there (court reporter, clerk, bailiff, etc.).
The purpose of these 1-page sheets is to lay some foundation and guide them through the process.
Some sentences you might include in a guide like this are:
“We know that trying to understand some of the legal terminology in a document like this can be like reading a foreign language, so we’ve prepared this short guide to help walk you through it.”
“We know that appearing in court for the first time can be intimidating. We prepared this guide to answer some common questions our clients have about what to expect."
“We often get questions from our clients like the ones below, and we want to make sure that you fully understand what this document means.”
“Documents like this can be long and contain a lot of legal arguments that are made by both sides. Don't feel intimidated by all of the legal terminology, we’d just like you to just focus on X section, which is where we wrote about the background of your case using the information you provided to us.”
You can create a 1-2 page resource like this for just about anything you send regularly to a client:
Requests to collect information/documents in response to discovery
Information related to drafting and answering complaints
Writing demand letters
Approving settlement, trust, or will documents
The list goes on . . .
Remember: Keep them short and simple, no lawyer speak, and think about it from the perspective of the client.